Friday, June 22, 2012

Preparation for the Trip to Cambodia

Not many people are familiar with Angkor Wat in Cambodia; it never get as much spotlight as The Great Wall in China or Eiffel Tower of course, but it holds such beauty nonetheless. It is not a familiar discussion as well to hear people going to Cambodia for vacation, despite its fascinating historical background. However, that is where I'm planning to go this late July. Together with 30 other people, we are going to Cambodia for a 2-weeks mission trip.

This trip might be the highlight of the year for me. I have been planning to go abroad to some 3rd world countries, not to witness the beauty and pretentiousness of skyscrapers and mega-complex shopping mall, but really to understand the low and reality of life; the side that is frequently hidden behind the glossy cover of tourism magazine.

I was born and raised in Indonesia; a developing country with one of the highest corruption, population and pollution level. Street beggars are conspicuous, slums are a daily eyesore, and criminal activity is a normal everyday threat, not to mention circulating rumors of bombing here and there. Growing up in this surrounding, I am certainly not unfamiliar with poverty. So what else do I need to understand about poverty?

I actually do not have a great answer for that. What I know is, so far my involvement with poverty has been confined to mere emotional and intelligence level. I know I look at them with teary eyes, my heart breaks and my gut shouts for the world to help them. I also read books and study about several poverty alleviation business models, I attended seminar and created a social business club as one of the efforts. But still, even after all that being done, I know I have not even crawled anywhere near sacrificial level.

To witness is not to understand, to have an eye-opening revelation is different than to have a life-changing experience, and regardless of how many cook books a person has read, that doesn't make him a chef.

And these are what I'm expecting to do and achieve to get nearer to that level
1. Talk to as many people as possible to identify one specific problem that can be tackled through social entrepreneurship
2. Although we are supposed to stay in a hotel during our trip, I'm gonna try to find a local that is willing to let me stay at his house for a couple of nights
3. I am with the construction team, so I'm gonna work my head off to help them build a school

Last but not least, I will hold on to this promise from Numbers 6:24-26

"The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up the light of His countenance upon you, and give you peace. Amen" 

When times go rough, and when the heat of the day is just painfully suffocating, when there is no power left to even form a simple thin smile, I will see upon the Lord's face, who will graciously lend his smile and lift up the light of his countenance upon me, and give that peace that surpassed all understanding. That's, where my heart will rest. Amen. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Commencement Speech - You Are Not Special

Be careful what you hear. We tend to selectively hear only things that validate our opinion and sense of liking. We like to hear messages that tickle our ears, telling us that we deserve it, we are strong, and we are special. Aren't we the contender? Imagine that you are one out of the millions sperms that being dispensed, and you're the one who swim victoriously towards the egg? But hey, listen more carefully please: there are 6.8 billions sperm that manage to do that too, and more are following. That is why when one commencement speaker states that we are not special, the whole world throws a tantrum and gasp in disbelief.

How could he? 

How dare he? 

Yes, what rarely said and often only heard in a faint whisper is the line after that: how could he tell that disturbing truth that soon? How dare he shatter the beautiful yet misconstrued pictures that we have been constructing for this little child - that he is the most special and that the world revolve around him?

This speech is an appropriate wake up call not only for these children, but also for all of us. Listen to what David McCullough Jr, an English speaker from Wellesley High School has to say during this commencement speech. 

Here are some of my favorites:

'Yes, you've been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped. Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again. You've been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored. You've been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie. Yes, you have. And, certainly, we've been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs. Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your tweet. ... And now you've conquered high school ... and, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community ...

But do not get the idea you're anything special. Because you're not.'

'Your planet ... is not the center of its solar system, your solar system is not the center of its galaxy, your galaxy is not the center of the universe. In fact, astrophysicists assure us the universe has no center; therefore, you cannot be it'

'Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying byproduct. It's what happens when you're thinking about more important things. Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you. Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly. Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion- and those who will follow them. And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is best thing you can do for yourself. The sweetest joy of life, then, come only with the recognition that you're not special. 

Because everyone is'

See this for complete transcript

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Easy Gardening with Fertilizer Tree Spikes - Winchester Gardens

Do you have trees whose leaves are turning brown or yellow, or stems getting broken easily? Chances are, your trees suffer from the same fate as mine, and are in dire need of fertilizer. But the idea of fertilizing trees, with all the mess and intricacy, really push me away. It is easier to rationalize that the mother nature will faithfully supply all the nutrients that my trees need without me having to bend down and hurt my back. Right?

Well, thankfully I have some fertilizer tree spikes. Most people are not familiar with tree spikes but they are basically very similar to any granular fertilizer, only they are being compressed and compacted into a solid spikes form. Thus, allowing a very easy & customer-friendly usage, I just have to drive the spikes into the soil, let mother nature do its charm, forget about it, and voila, my trees are fertilized constantly throughout the season. 

Tree in my backyard where I apply Winchester Gardens tree fertilizer spikes
The tree which I fertilized with Winchester Gardens' Fertilizer Spikes
The 'secret' is in its slow-release formula. Once the spikes are placed beneath the soil, water and micro-organism will help to break down the nutrients slowly but continuously all season long. At the right pace too! Thus, it eliminates the need to apply your fertilizer every week or two weeks. You just have to apply it, not twice, not thrice, but just once! No more 'Oh my, I forgot to fertilize my tree'. With fertilizer spikes, you can literally forget all about it. 

For the most effective result, place the tree spikes along the drip line. Let me explain. Basically, look for the outermost branch or leaves, and then hammer the spikes just below it, exactly where water drips from and unto the ground. This is important because the root is usually located along the drip line so you are basically geo-targeting the fertilizer. 

Winchester Gardens' Tree Shrub Fertilizer Spikes
Tree Spikes before I
hammered it in
Another tips is to water the soil before hammering the spikes in, you basically want to make sure the ground is moist and soft and is happy enough to welcome the spikes. If not, you are creating troubles for yourself. Don't worry, contrary to the popular belief, spikes do not easily break apart during application. Well, at least the one that I used did not. 

The most typical tree spikes you can find out there are tree & shrub, evergreen and fruit citrus. However, Winchester Gardens has a wide collection of fertilizer spikes, from tomato spikes, vegetable spikes, rose spikes, and even berry spikes. I use the tree shrub and evergreen on my yard, and everything are looking good so far. I might have to apply them again in the Fall, but at least for the next two months, I can cross one task off my to do list, forget about it and just sit back enjoying the beauty of my yard. That's, my friend, how you can improve your quality of life :)